Posts Tagged ‘charity’

MARK 10:46-52

46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

As a humorous aside, “Bartimaeus son of Timaeus” was read by the author of Matthew, as he reviewed his sources (Mark’s Gospel being one of them), as indicating two individuals – Bartimaeus and the son of Timaeus – a confusion caused in part by the fact that the name Bar Timaeus in Aramaic translates as “son of Timaeus.” Not wanting to tamper with his source, Matthew simply copied the story into his own narrative, but with two blind beggars instead of one!

Here in the original story there is only one man, Bartimaeus, whose blindness is surely, on the level of symbolic meaning, representing our human condition generally: reaching out under the dark veil of spiritual ignorance for the Light and Love we need.

As a blind beggar, Bartimaeus was about as close as one could come to being a societal “bottom feeder.” Without social value or influence, his kind was forced to live off the scraps of charity the well-to-do might toss their way. As in our own day, back then the homeless and invalid beggars stationed themselves along the rush-hour thoroughfares and congested intersections of the middle-class rat race.

There were many like him who had no other recourse but to beg off the small change and stale bread of those who rushed by, their only ambition to get enough for now. Beyond that, however, they had little clarity or hope for more. But when Bartimaeus heard that Jesus the healer was coming by, his heart leapt within him. Here was his chance for what he had never dared imagine: to spring from his dark prison and see the light of the Day Star. “Jesus,” he cried out, “have mercy on me!”

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2 CORINTHIANS 8:7-15

Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10 And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— 11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13 I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 As it is written,

“The one who had much did not have too much,
    and the one who had little did not have too little.”

Our sense of justice when we are very young is centered in our notions of fairness. To be “fair,” all of us around the table needed to get an equal-sized piece of the pie. To be “fair,” everyone needed to get what they deserved (which sometimes worked against us personally). Even after we’ve grown up this early sense of justice continues with us, to shape and condition our adult views of work, wealth, and social equality.

To guess what must have been going on behind the scene there in Corinth, we might suspect that some church members were complaining over the unfairness of having to share their hard-earned wealth with the distant and faceless poor across the sea in Jerusalem. It just didn’t seem right that they should be obligated with charity for people they didn’t even know, and who probably didn’t deserve it anyway.

But Paul held their opinions and excuses against the greatest paradigm of charity the world had ever witnessed – the self-emptying generosity of God revealed in Jesus Christ, who gave everything for the sake of our salvation. What are your meager possessions when compared with the redemptive self-sacrifice made by Jesus on your behalf? What right do you have to withhold your wealth and love from the anonymous poor, when God so loves all of us – maybe especially the poor – with a charity so undeserved that even you fall short of its measure? Grow up!

2 CORINTHIANS 8:7-15

Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10 And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— 11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13 I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 As it is written,

“The one who had much did not have too much,
    and the one who had little did not have too little.”

Besides his missionary task of planting Christian communities (churches) throughout the Greek-speaking regions of the Mediterranean world, the apostle Paul also worked diligently to bring a collection from his start-up congregations to the mother church in Jerusalem. As Christianity’s first real inner-city mission, the financial needs of the Jerusalem church were constantly overwhelming the resources of church members. The first mission to the poor and sick, the precursor to our shelters and hospitals, was here in Jerusalem, and Paul sought to enlist the worldwide Christian community in its support.

We can hear a bit of impatience in Paul’s appeal to the Corinthian Christians. The later proverb which states that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” carries his caution nicely. “What you talked about doing last year needs to be completed now,” he advises, “because talk is cheap and safe and easy. Now is the time to act and make a real difference for the kingdom.” 

It seems these Christians were suffering from an ailment that frequently hampers the purpose of God still today: complacency. When we lose the compassion that is the underlying drive of all redemptive justice and social concern, we render ourselves effectively useless to the work of the Holy Spirit in the world.